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Malaga, Spain and Costa del Sol: The Quick Visitor's Guide

Updated on November 29, 2011

Visitor's Guide to Malaga

When planning your vacation in Malaga, and to Costa del Sol, why not travel with a good sense of the history as well as knowledge of the local customs. Then plan on visiting all the must-see sights, and enjoying some of Europe's most impressive beaches.

Below is a list for the explorer to start with.

First, a Brief History Timeline:

4000 BC - The settlement of Malaga can be traced back to 4000 BC when prehistoric people inhabited the caves of Andalusia.

3000 BC - In 3000 BC, the Iberian people crossed over from North Africa and gave the peninsula its name.

During the 1,000 years prior to Christ, the Phoenician people established a civilization and called it Malaca (or Malaka). The Greeks followed around 550 BC - followed by the Romans who colonized Spain in 218 BC and occupied it until the 5th century AD. The Visigoth then conquered Malaga in 623 and lasted until 711.

711 - The Moors invaded from Africa (and called it Al-Andalus) bringing Muslim religion and influence. Battles lasted more than 10 years and Cordoba became the new capital of Islamic Spain.

Independence was gained in the latter part of the 9th century and the Moorish empire disintegrated into fiefdoms and Christians began ousting Muslims, at which time the Moors moved to the Kingdom of Granada, which fell almost 300 years later.

Spain eventually became unified under the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand - and soon after Christopher Columbus set sail for the 'new world.'

The 17th and 18th century saw the population grow but the town was hit by earthquakes and epidemics. In the 19th century the town began to grow. Napolean's French domination only lasted from 1810-1812. Malaga then became a destination for the rich and thus began the tourist industry. However, the century ended with an economic crisis, more plagues and other problems.

Early 1900s - After a civil war, Franco became Spain's new ruler in1939. After WWII tourism was developed and the economy began to improve. By the1960s, with a tourist boom, the economy recovered totally.

Today Malaga is Spain's second largest port, has its third largest international airport, more than 100 international conventions are held in the region, and more the 6 million tourists visit each year.

General Information:

Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Malaga is on the Southern Coast of Spain and is the gateway to the Andalusian countryside. It is also known to many as the capitol of the Costa del Sol.The Costa del Sol ("Sun Coast" or "Coast of the Sun") is an area along the Mediterranean coastline of the Malaga province.

The Costa del Sol was known in the past for its tiny fishing villages. But today those villages have been replaced with resort towns and large retirement villages - home to many Spaniards and Europeans.

Along with some of the most impressive beaches in Europe, the resort towns bordering the city on the east and west make Malaga a popular destination for European visitors.

Malaga has a subtropical climate and enjoys some of the warmest winters in Europe; it is now home to more than a half-million residents. The coast is filled with colorfully decorated small villas and cottages lush with jasmine and bougainvillea.

Places to See:

1 - Alameda Principal - is the busy thoroughfare constructed in the late 18th century and is located along the sea. The gardens contain exotic, rare and tropical plants. The locals gather here to stroll and enjoy the scenery.

2 - The Gibralfaro Castle - has bougainvillea draped ramparts and overlooks the Alcazaba (see #3). It affords spectacular views of the city.

3 - The Alcazaba - was started in 1057 and is the Muslim fortress-palace that dominates the city center. The Alcazaba was the official residence of the Arab Emirs of Malaga who ruled. Sitting high on the hilltop it can be seen from anywhere in the city and offers views of the downtown area. Here you will find an archaeological museum displaying stucco work and 12th and 13th century pottery.

4 - The Picasso Museum (Museo Picasso) - which was dedicated by the King and Queen of Spain in 2003, is located in a 16th century building dedicated to the work of Picasso - the Malaga born painter. Picasso fans will see a large collection of his work here.

5 - The House of Picasso - where the artist discovered his love of painting. His family lived here for the first 14 years of his life. The recently restored house offers a limited amount of tours.

6 - The Malaga Cathedral - constructed in the 16th century, the Cathedral, an example of Spanish architecture, took more than two centuries to build. The interior has hand-carved wooden choir stalls built in the early 17th century. It is located on the site of a former Arab mosque.

7 - Mercado Central - built in the 19th century is a main shopping area for locals - offering fresh produce and fish each day. Nearby are cafes and bars serving locally produced wine.

Local Customs:

Tipping - at most restaurants is 10% - but it may be included in the price of the meal. You can check.

Bargaining - is not customary in the shops. Bargaining is only possible in the flea markets and maybe with antique dealers.

Local Cuisine and Beverages:

Cuisine - Paella is the national dish. It is a combination of chicken, seafood. and vegetables mixed with saffron-flavored rice. Zarzuela is a fish dish using up to a dozen different types of seafood which is then served in a wine or brandy sauce. Fritura Malaguena is fried seafood. Pa amb tomaquet is considered a peasant-type of bread topped with tomatoes and grilled. Dessert is Crema Catalana - a caramel custard.

Drinks - Malaga Virgen is the famous sweet wine. Priorato is the popularly known red wine. Cava is the world-renown sparkling wine. Bottled water is always recommended.

Local Information:

Shopping - Most stores are open Monday-Saturday, 10am to 1pm, and then again from 4:30pm to 8pm, in observance of fiesta time. Large department stores do not observe fiesta. This includes Galerias Preciados and Corte Ingles. All stores are closed on Sunday except for some souvenir shops.

Few stores accept US dollars, but most accept credit cards. A VAT (Value Added Tax) is included in most purchases. Visitors spending over a certain amount may be able to reclaim some or all of this tax - check with the shop - but these regulations are always subject to change.

Currency - is the euro. There are many exchange bureaus located throughout Malaga, as well as ATMs and banks. An exchange office is also located inside the downtown Tourist Information Office.

Telephones - are located throughout the city and calling cards can be purchased at "Tabacos" shops. Some phones may require coins.

Post Office - the main post office is locate within the city center at Avenida de Andalucia.

Tourist Information Center - is located downtown at Pasaje de Chinitas. Another center is at the downtown local bus station.

Just Outside of Malaga:

There are a number of other well-known destinations within reach.

1 - Marbella - is the large resort town and a favorite place for the rich and famous. Its known for its beach areas and high priced boutiques and restaurants. Marbella is also known for its famous plaza - the Plaza de los Naranjos - filled with narrow winding streets.

2 - Mijas - is a village west of Malaga and sits 3,000 feet above sea level. It was founded by the Muslims and is filled with whitewashed houses covered with jasmine and bougainvillea. Souvenir shops and cafes line the streets and alleyways.

Beyond Malaga is the famous Andalusia region which stretches across the South of Spain and includes such famous places as the city of Granada and the Palace of Alhambra.

3 - Granada - Alhambra Palace is the Moorish palace, referred to locally as the 'eighth wonder of the world' - it was built during the 12th century in the city of Granada. The rooms in the Palace include the "Hall of Streets" where your whisper can be heard from any part of the chamber.


For more recommended information about world travel destinations, see the links below:


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    • TheListLady profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from New York City

      Thanks so much for the comments. Yay!

    • MarieAlice profile image

      Maria Alicia Cardenas 

      6 years ago from Spain

      very good information...

    • The Blagsmith profile image

      The Blagsmith 

      7 years ago from Britain


      I have included your hub as a link to compliment my website article Tarifa:

      I hope it does your hub justice.


    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      I have a friend who owns a home in Malaga. He inherited it when his father died. I have seen many photographs of it but not yet been there.

      I enjoyed your report very much. Thank you for this history, too.

    • anglnwu profile image


      7 years ago

      Looks like a great place to visit. I love paella and make it sometimes. Thanks for sharing.

    • webgain profile image


      7 years ago from Delhi, India

      i like to read on travel and this is very inspiring for me.. thanks

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      I'd love to see the house of Picasso! Okay...this is going on my offical "Places to See" list. Thanks List Lady. Rated it Up!

    • ImChemist profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for this great hub , Rated up.

    • CountryCityWoman profile image


      7 years ago from From New York City to North Carolina

      Wow - you have covered this so well. And I do like knowing history before I travel - it really enriches the trip and it shows a certain respect for the inhabitants.

      Thanks a million and rated up!

    • PaulStaley1 profile image


      7 years ago from With the wind---(or against it)

      I love the Arabic influenced words in Spanish coming from the Moors. Ojala que escribes mas sobre tus viajes! Nice info

    • BkCreative profile image


      7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You know before I travel anywhere, I always do a history background search. There is no reason for us to travel as Ugly Americans and act in an ethnocentric manner. I have heard about the Moors in Spain but I've never gone back so far as to read about the Phoenicians - who are now said to be the first to create a civilization. Knowing the history makes me want to go even more.

      And looking at the beauty of Malaga - I would love to walk through that picture at the top and enjoy some real Malagea wine.

      Wonderful thorough hub! Rated up!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow... this was so beautiful. I can't say anything. I really enjoy all these informations. I'll put Malaga, Spain and Costa del Sol on my travel list. I hope I can visit one of these places someday. Well done, my friend. I give my vote to you.

      Love and peace,


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